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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

Christopher A. Hart
Federal Register
March 10, 1994

[Federal Register: March 10, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 74-14; Notice 84]
RIN 2127-AF15

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule; Response to petitions for reconsideration.

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SUMMARY: On September 2, 1993, NHTSA published a final rule specifying 
that manufacturers must install air bags to satisfy automatic crash 
protection requirements. The final rule also required that labels 
bearing specified information be placed in vehicles equipped with air 
bags and that additional, more detailed information about air bags be 
provided in the owner's manual.
    In response to two petitions for reconsideration, NHTSA is amending 
the labeling requirements to allow a consumer information label 
regarding utility vehicles to continue to be placed on the sun visor. 
In addition, in response to three requests for interpretation, NHTSA is 
amending the labeling to clarify that the air bag maintenance label can 
be combined with the air bag warning and to allow the use of either the 
word ``Caution'' or the word ``Warning'' at the beginning of the air 
bag warning label. Finally, this notice explains that translations of 
the labels are permitted as long as the required English language 
versions are provided.

dates: Effective Date: The amendments made in this rule are effective 
March 1, 1994. Compliance dates: Mandatory air bag requirements: See 
the Compliance Dates section at the beginning of the ``Supplementary 
Information'' section of the final rule (58 FR 46551; September 2, 
1993). Vehicle label requirements: September 1, 1994. Owner's manual 
requirements: March 1, 1994.
    Petitions for reconsideration: Any petitions for reconsideration 
must be received by NHTSA no later than April 11, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Any petitions for reconsideration should refer to the docket 
and notice number of this notice and be submitted to: Administrator, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mr. Daniel Cohen, Chief, Frontal Crash Protection Division, Office of 
Vehicle Safety Standards, NRM-12, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. 
Telephone: (202) 366-2264.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On September 2, 1993, NHTSA published a 
final rule specifying that manufacturers must install air bags to 
satisfy automatic crash protection requirements. The final rule also 
required that labels bearing specified information be placed in 
vehicles equipped with air bags and that additional, more detailed 
information about air bags be provided in the owner's manual.
    General Motors Corporation (GM) and Ford Motor Company (Ford) 
submitted petitions for reconsideration of the September 2 final rule. 
Volkswagen of America, Inc. (VW), Nissan Research and Development, Inc. 
(Nissan), and American Suzuki Motor Corporation (Suzuki) wrote to the 
agency requesting clarification of certain aspects of the September 2 
final rule. All of the issues raised by the petitions and the letters 
concern the labeling requirements of the September 2 final rule. A 
discussion of each issue and the agency's response follows.

Utility Vehicle Label

    The September 2 final rule required various types of labels 
concerning air bags to be placed on the sun visor. Section S4.5.1(b)(2) 
of Standard No. 208, as amended by the September 2 final rule, states: 
Except for an air bag alert label placed on the visor pursuant to 
S4.5.1(c) of this standard, no other information about air bags or the 
need to wear seat belts shall appear anywhere on the sun visor.
    Both GM and Ford petitioned the agency to amend S4.5.1(b)(2) of 
Standard No. 208 to permit the utility vehicle label on the sun visor. 
Since September 1, 1984, utility vehicles with a wheel-base of 110 
inches or less have been required to be labeled with information to 
inform drivers that the handling and maneuvering characteristics of 
those vehicles require special driving practices (49 CFR part 575.105). 
Included in the language required by Sec. 575.105(c)(1) is the 
statement ``WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS AT ALL TIMES.'' The label is required 
to be affixed to one of several locations in the vehicle interior, 
including the driver's side sun visor.
    Ford also stated that it voluntarily affixes the utility vehicle 
label on some vehicles with wheel-bases larger than 110 inches, and 
requested that S4.5.1(b)(2) permit the utility vehicle label in those 
instances also. This issue was also raised by Suzuki and Nissan.
    The prohibition against other air bag or seat belt information on 
the sun visor in the final rule was intended to prevent ``information 
overload'' regarding air bags and seat belts. Additional information 
could blunt the impact of the required information. The main emphasis 
of the utility vehicle label is the possibility of rollover. Further, 
the required statement concerning belt use is incidental to that 
message. Finally, in view of the similarity of the statements about 
seat belt use in the utility vehicle label and air bag labels, the 
former label poses no threat of information overload about belt use. 
Therefore, NHTSA is amending the final rule to allow the installation 
of a utility label that contains the language required by 49 CFR 
575.105(c)(1).

Dual Language Label

    The September 2 final rule specified requirements for three air bag 
labels: A maintenance label, a warning label, and an alert label. 
Section S4.5.1(a) requires the air bag maintenance label to be in 
English. The specific wording which must be on the air bag warning 
label and the air bag alert label is specified in S4.5.1(b)(1) and 
S4.5.1(c) respectively. Section S4.5.1(b)(2) prohibited any ``other 
information'' on the same side of the sun visor as the air bag warning 
label and prohibited any ``other information about air bags or the need 
to wear seat belts'' on the sun visor.
    VW requested an interpretation of the labeling requirements to 
allow dual language labels. VW stated that Canada requires these 
labels, if provided, to be in both English and French. VW stated that 
manufacturers would be able to produce vehicles at lower cost if one 
label could be used for vehicles sold in both countries. Nissan also 
asked whether French translations were allowed on the labels.
    As explained above, section S4.5.1(a) requires the air bag 
maintenance label to be ``in English.'' The air bag warning label and 
air bag alert label are not expressly required to be in English. 
However, S4.5.1(b)(1) and S4.5.1(c) do expressly require that those 
labels read as specified in the standard. For each label, those 
provisions specify, in English, the exact wording of a required 
message.
    The agency addressed a related matter in a May 24, 1993 letter to 
Mr. Steve Flint of Century Products Co. In that letter, the agency 
determined that Spanish and French versions of the registration form 
required by Standard No. 213 were permitted, ``as long as the English 
form complies with S5.8 and does not bear any information or writing 
beyond that required to be on the form * * * if the information * * * 
is presented in a manner that is not likely to confuse consumers in 
this country about the meaning of the English form or the importance of 
owner registration.''
    NHTSA interprets the labeling requirements of the September 2 final 
rule as requiring manufacturers to supply the information in English. 
Once this requirement is met, manufacturers may supply the same 
information in other languages, so long as it does not confuse 
consumers. As long as the non-English language label is a translation 
of the required information, NHTSA does not interpret it to be ``other 
information.'' However, manufacturers are not permitted to include 
additional information in the non-English label.
    NHTSA intends to monitor the provision of foreign language 
translations of the English language label on the sun visor. NHTSA 
would initiate corrective rulemaking in the future if it appeared that 
the presence of non-English labels was in any way creating confusion or 
other problems. For example, the agency notes that the September 2 
final rule did not include a minimum type size requirement for the 
labels required by S4.5.1 (b) or (c). Since sun visors have limited 
space, NHTSA is concerned that the addition of multiple language 
versions of the required information could result in use of a type size 
that would make the label difficult to read.

Maintenance Label Location

    Section S4.5.1(a) of Standard No. 208, as amended by the September 
2 final rule, allows the air bag maintenance label to ``be combined 
with the label required by S4.5.1(b) of this standard to appear on the 
sun visor.'' However, S4.5.1(b)(2), as amended by the September 2 final 
rule, states ``No other information shall appear on the same side of 
the sun visor to which the label is affixed.''
    Both VW and Nissan stated that the language of these two sections 
appeared contradictory, and requested clarification that it was 
permitted to combine the air bag maintenance and warning labels.
    NHTSA agrees that the two sections are contradictory. NHTSA 
intended to allow the combination of the air bag maintenance and 
warning labels, and is amending S4.5.1(b)(2) to clarify that no 
information other than that in the maintenance label is allowed on the 
same side of the sun visor as the air bag warning label.

Signal Word ``Caution''

    Section S4.5.1(b)(1) requires the following information on the sun 
visor for every seating position with an air bag:

Caution to Avoid Serious Injury

    For maximum safety protection in all types of crashes, you must 
always wear your safety belt.
    Do not install rearward-facing child seats in any front 
passenger seat position.
    Do not sit or lean unnecessarily close to the air bag.
    Do not place any objects over the air bag or between the air bag 
and yourself.
    See the owner's manual for further information and explanations.

    Suzuki requested an interpretation of this section to allow the use 
of the word ``WARNING'' rather than the word ``CAUTION.'' Suzuki stated 
that the American National Standards Institute Standard Z535.4-1991, 
Product Safety Signs and Labels, specifies that the signal words 
``Warning,'' ``Caution,'' and ``Danger'' be used to signify different 
degrees of risk of personal injury. Suzuki stated that this standard 
would require use of the word ``Warning'' for the type of label 
required by S4.5.1(b)(1), and that allowing this word in place of 
``Caution'' would be consistent with ``a national effort toward 
uniformity in safety labeling of products.''
    NHTSA added the phrase ``CAUTION, TO AVOID SERIOUS INJURY'' in the 
final rule to ``attract occupants' attention to the label and provide a 
brief statement of the risks of improper use and consequences.'' NHTSA 
concludes that substitution of the word ``WARNING'' would also achieve 
these goals, and is therefore permitting its use.

Miscellaneous Corrections

    NHTSA is also correcting two errors made in the regulatory language 
in the final rule. The fifth sentence of S4.5.1(e) read: The owner's 
manual shall also explain that no objects should be placed over or near 
the label identifying the air bag on the steering wheel and instrument 
panel, because any such objects could cause harm if the vehicle is in a 
crash severe enough to cause the air bag to inflate.
    NHTSA is deleting the words ``the label identifying'' since this 
label is no longer required.
    The first sentence of S12.6(a) read: NHTSA will process any 
application for temporary exemption that contains the information 
specified in S21.4 and S12.5.
    NHTSA is correcting the reference to S21.4 to read S12.4.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    NHTSA has considered the impact of this rulemaking action under 
Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation's regulatory 
policies and procedures. This rulemaking document was not reviewed 
under Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review.'' This 
action has been determined to be not ``significant'' under the 
Department of Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. A 
final regulatory evaluation was prepared for the September 2 final rule 
since it was significant within the meaning of the Department of 
Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. NHTSA has 
determined that there will be no additional economic impacts from this 
final rule because the changes simply either clarify the previous final 
rule, or allow manufactures additional flexibility.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    NHTSA has also considered the impacts of this final rule under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. I hereby certify that this rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. As explained above, NHTSA has determined that there will be 
no significant economic impacts from this final rule.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-
511), NHTSA notes that there are no requirements for information 
collection associated with this final rule.

National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has also analyzed this final rule under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and determined that it will not have a 
significant impact on the human environment.

Executive Order 12612 (Federalism)

    NHTSA has analyzed this rule in accordance with the principles and 
criteria contained in Executive Order 12612, and has determined that 
this rule will not have significant federalism implications to warrant 
the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

Civil Justice Reform

    This final rule does not have any retroactive effect. Under section 
103(d) of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety 
Act; 15 U.S.C. 1392(d)), whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety 
standard is in effect, a State may not adopt or maintain a safety 
standard applicable to the same aspect of performance which is not 
identical to the Federal standard, except to the extent that the State 
requirement imposes a higher level of performance and applies only to 
vehicles procured for the State's use. Section 105 of the Safety Act 
(15 U.S.C. 1394) sets forth a procedure for judicial review of final 
rules establishing, amending or revoking Federal motor vehicles safety 
standards. That section does not require submission of a petition for 
reconsideration or other administrative proceedings before parties may 
file suit in court.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Motor vehicle safety, Motor vehicles.

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR part 571 is amended as 
follows:
    1. The authority citation for part 571 of title 49 continues to 
read as follows:

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1392, 1401, 1403, 1407, delegation of 
authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    2. Section 571.208 is amended by revising S4.5.1(b)(1), 
S4.5.1(b)(2), S4.5.1(e) and S12.6(a) to read as follows:


Sec. 571.208   Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection.

* * * * *
    S4.5  Other general requirements.
    S4.5.1  Labeling and owner's manual information.
* * * * *
    (b) Label on sun visor above front outboard seating positions 
equipped with inflatable restraint. (1) For vehicles manufactured on or 
after September 1, 1994, each front outboard seating position that 
provides an inflatable restraint shall have a label permanently affixed 
to the sun visor for such seating position on either side of the sun 
visor, at the manufacturer's option. Except as provided in 
S4.5.1(b)(3), and except that the word ``WARNING'' may be used instead 
of ``CAUTION,'' this label shall read:

Caution to Avoid Serious Injury

    For maximum safety protection in all types of crashes, you must 
always wear your safety belt.
    Do not install rearward-facing child seats in any front 
passenger seat position.
    Do not sit or lean unnecessarily close to the air bag.
    Do not place any objects over the air bag or between the air bag 
and yourself.
    See the owner's manual for further information and explanations.

    (2) The color of the lettering on the label shall contrast with the 
background of the label. Except for the information on an air bag 
maintenance label placed on the visor pursuant to S4.5.1(a) of this 
standard, no other information shall appear on the same side of the sun 
visor to which the label is affixed. Except for the information in an 
air bag alert label placed on the visor pursuant to S4.5.1(c) of this 
standard, or in a utility vehicle label that contains the language 
required by 49 CFR 575.105(c)(1), no other information about air bags 
or the need to wear seat belts shall appear anywhere on the sun visor.
* * * * *
    (e) Information to appear in owner's manual. The owner's manual for 
any vehicle equipped with an inflatable restraint system shall include 
a description of the vehicle's air bag system in an easily 
understandable format. The owner's manual shall include a statement to 
the effect that the vehicle is equipped with an air bag and a lap/
shoulder belt at one or both front outboard seating positions, and that 
the air bag is a supplemental restraint at those seating positions. The 
information shall emphasize that all occupants, including the driver, 
should always wear their seat belts whether or not an air bag is also 
provided at their seating position to minimize the risk of severe 
injury or death in the event of a crash. The owner's manual shall also 
provide any necessary precautions regarding the proper positioning of 
occupants, including children, at seating positions equipped with air 
bags to ensure maximum safety protection for those occupants. The 
owner's manual shall also explain that no objects should be placed over 
or near the air bag on the steering wheel or on the instrument panel, 
because any such objects could cause harm if the vehicle is in a crash 
severe enough to cause the air bag to inflate.
* * * * *
    S12.6  Processing an application for a temporary exemption. (a) 
NHTSA will process any application for temporary exemption that 
contains the information specified in S12.4 and S12.5. If an 
application fails to provide the information specified in S12.4 and 
S12.5, NHTSA will not process the application, but will advise the 
manufacturer of the information that must be provided if the agency is 
to process the application.
* * * * *
    Issued on March 4, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-5485 Filed 3-9-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-M

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